A former University of California at Berkeley student pleaded no contest on Friday to murder and attempted murder charges for brutally killing one woman and wounding another in an unprovoked knife attack in Berkeley in 2017.
After Pablo Gomez, 24, a transgender activist who prefers to be known as “they” instead of “he,” entered the plea at an emotional hearing attended by about 30 of murder victim Emilie Inman’s family members and friends, Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay sentenced him to a term of 39 years to life.
But in a catch that upset Inman’s family members and friends, Clay ordered that Gomez, who was a senior majoring in Chicano and Latino studies at the time of the knife attack and was involved with the university’s Queer Alliance Resource Center, serve the sentence at a state mental institution, not in state prison.
Clay said Gomez “is a sick young man” and promised that if Gomez is ever restored to sanity they will serve the rest of their term in prison.
The stabbings of Inman, who was born in France, moved with her family to San Luis Obispo when she was 10 and was a nature program instructor for fifth- and sixth-graders at Sienna Ranch in Lafayette, and surviving victim Kiana Schmitt occurred at Inman’s apartment on Ashby Avenue near Telegraph Avenue in South Berkeley on Jan. 6, 2017.
At Gomez’s preliminary hearing in November 2017, Schmitt, who also attended UC Berkeley, said she’d been friends with Gomez for about a year, and they lived at student cooperative housing at La Loma Avenue and Ridge Road near the campus.
Schmitt said Gomez asked her to drive them to what they said was a friend’s house but refused to tell her the name of the person who lived at the house or why they wanted to go there.
Evidence in the case indicates that Inman didn’t know Gomez, but Berkeley police said Gomez did have a friend who used to live at the apartment, although she had moved out a year earlier.
Police said that woman told them Gomez had only visited her there once, but she was friends with Gomez through activist circles and they would see each other at activist events.
Schmitt testified that she stayed outside while Gomez went into the apartment on Ashby Avenue and a short time later he came out clutching a large, bloody kitchen knife and pacing through pools of blood.
Schmitt said Gomez wouldn’t tell her what happened, told her to trust them and keep their secret and then ushered her into a nearby shed and stabbed her multiple times.
Schmitt said she and Gomez then drove back to Ridge Road, where Gomez got out and she was able to stop a car and get help.
Gomez, who is from North Hollywood, fled but was arrested in Burbank the following day.
Berkeley police responded to Ridge Road to assist Schmitt and she led them to the apartment on Ashby Avenue, where it took officers hours to find Inman, who had been stabbed multiple times in her neck and abdomen, because Gomez carefully hid her body underneath a plant and covered it with a pile of hay.
Timothy McNulty of San Luis Obispo, a friend of Inman and her family, said at Gomez’s hearing on Friday that the bizarre case “adds up to something more than he (Gomez) was just crazy.”
McNulty said Gomez “knew what he was going to do” and “just sliced and mutilated her (Inman).”
Referring to the fact that Gomez will be going to a mental institution instead of prison, McNulty said:
“This doesn’t feel like justice for us.”
Brianna Deutsch, who was one of Inman’s roommates, said:
“Many questions remain unanswered.”
Deutsch suggested that the fatal stabbing of Inman may have been premeditated, asking:
“How is it possible to enter an unfamiliar house, find her (Inman) and hide her body within five minutes.”
“I believe mental health is an excuse not to investigate further.”
Inman’s parents and siblings also spoke at the hearing.
Clay said Inman “was an extraordinary, remarkable and beautiful person” and her death “was a horrible tragedy.”
Clay said the people who knew Gomez “failed” because they didn’t respond to warning signs that Gomez suffered from severe mental health problems.
The judge said:
“People sat back and didn’t do anything.”